20081020-cookscountry.jpgI frequently work as a freelance recipe tester. Most people think that it must be a dream job—they imagine me puttering about my kitchen, popping delicious creations in and out of my oven all day long. This couldn't be further from the truth. Like any job, recipe testing is often incredibly stressful. Recently, I spent six hours slaving over homemade croissants—pounding the butter, rolling the dough, chilling them, letting them rise, and tying them into little knots—only to have them emerge like butter-drenched hockey pucks.

Don't get me wrong, I love what I do. Along with the failed croissants, the same assignment yielded recipes for a perfectly balanced chilled cucumber soup, and to-die-for apricot-almond bars. But nothing is more upsetting than working very hard on a dish only to have it turn out all wrong.

That's why, when I'm not working, I often turn to recipes from America's Test Kitchen, the tireless team behind Cook's Illustrated and Cook's Country. From tried-and-true chicken soups to seafood jambalayas to perfectly tart lemon bars, I can honestly say that I have never made a recipe from America's Test Kitchen that didn't work. Their mission "is to test recipes until we understand how and why they work and arrive at the best version."

This week's Cook the Book selection is The Cook's Country Cookbook: Rediscovering American Home Cooking with 500 Classic, Regional, and Heirloom Recipes. With 17 exhaustive chapters (including "Lunch Counter Specials" and "Blue Ribbon Cakes"), this book strikes me as a wonderful go-to guide when you're looking to prepare a casual weeknight meal, or for something sweet to donate to the school bake sale.

Win 'The Cook's Country Cookbook'

In addition to excerpting a recipe from The Cook's Country Cookbook each day this week, we're also giving away five (5) copies. To enter for a chance to win, simply answer this question in the comments section below: What is your favorite all-American potluck dish?

Five (5) people will be chosen at random from eligible comments below. Comments will close Monday, October 27 at noon ET. The standard Serious Eats contest rules apply.

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